The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi kick off Friday, February 7—the first winter games ever to be held in the Russian Federation, and the first time the games return to the country since the Summer Olympics in 1980. And if you can’t watch the snow- and ice-filled action in person, invite a few friends over and cheer on Team USA at home with these Russian-inspired tips, sips and snacks.
Russian restaurant Mari Vanna in Washington, D.C. has vibes that evokes a cozy night in at your Russian great aunt’s house, with antiques on shelves and tchotchkes hanging on the wall.
“If you want your guests to feel the same, I suggest family-style servings, plush pillows and comfy seating,” says Tatiana Brunetti, owner of Mari Vanna. Or opt for a more sumptuous feel, like at Red Square Restaurant & Lounge at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
“We like the use of red lighting and deep red fabrics for draping and napkins, says Brian Massie, corporate executive chef for Light Group, which operates the Mandalay Bay. “White is also a good color to incorporate.”
Play music as guests arrive, as well as in-between events or during commercial breaks. Massie prefers upbeat music, or even a little house music.
“It provides good energy and will be a great soundtrack for the party,” he says.
Brunetti suggests borrowing a karaoke machine for the night, or using YouTube.
“Russians love karaoke, especially after a few shots of vodka.”
Recipe courtesy Mari Vanna, Washington, D.C.
The name for this drink comes from a late fall/winter apple variety found in Russia that’s akin to a Granny Smith. You can batch this cocktail in advance and serve it over ice so you don’t miss any of the nail-biting photo finishes.
2 ounces Russian Standard Vodka
1 ounce Berentzen Apple Liqueur
1 ounce pear purée
½ ounce lemon juice
Slice of apple, for garnish
Add the vodka, apple liqueur, pear purée and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an apple slice.
Recipe courtesy Brian Massie, corporate executive chef, Red Square Restaurant & Lounge, Las Vegas
This classic bar food gets gussied up with the addition of smoked salmon and caviar. Feel free to add chopped chives and a few turns from a pepper grinder.
Potato chips (long, oval shaped ones work best)
Place the potato chips on a platter or in a large bowl. Top the chips with small pieces of smoked salmon and a dollop of Crème fraîche. Garnish with caviar.
Recipe courtesy Tatiana Brunetti, owner, Mari Vanna, Washington, D.C.
Though a bit time consuming, these Russian crepes can be cooked in advance, and kept warm by wrapping them in foil and storing them in the oven. To expedite the process, cook the blinis on a large electric skillet instead of in a frying pan.
3½ cups milk
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 ¼ cup flour
⅜ cup oil, or as needed
1 stick butter
Your choice of fillings and toppings: strawberry or raspberry jam, sour cream, Nutella, cooked eggs, meat or vegetables.
Whisk the eggs, milk, sugar and salt together. Slowly start to add the flour to thicken the batter, starting with one cup and adding more flour as the batter thickens. Add the oil, and let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat a frying pan over medium heat, and cover the surface with oil. Use a ⅓ measuring cup to pour the batter into the middle of the pan, and then quickly tilt the pan in a circular motion until the batter spreads to cover the pan surface. (It should be a very thin layer.)
Cook the blini for two or three minutes on one side, until small bubbles form on the top, and the blini becomes a light golden brown color on the bottom. Flip the blini, and cook the other side for another 30 seconds.
Add ¼ tablespoon of butter and ½ tablespoon on top of each blini.
Repeat until all blinis are cooked. Fill with topping(s) of your choice, and serve warm. Makes 30 blinis.